James Barry is the man behind Kowä Axis and he, along with Joe Parkes (Pale World) have come together to create Niche Field, an empowering and challenging voyage through what is possible just using a guitar and a few other bits of equipment. Back in 2017 when Barry and James played their own separate sets in London’s New Cross, never having heard of each other, they had a quick conversation afterwards and agreed to meet up in a few months and thus began the spark of an idea.
The album, made up of four tracks, ‘Primary’ through to ‘Quarternary’, is the terrifyingly beautiful realisation of two artists improvising, learning, listening and experimenting in the studio. It is at once meditative and nightmarish, disorientating and comforting, harsh and fluid. Opening track ‘Primary’ feels like standing in front of an incoming storm and being unable (or unwilling) to do anything about it – it’s fourteen minutes of feeling completely insignificant in the face of overwhelming odds. The remaining three tracks throw down the gauntlet and challenge any preconceived notions one might have as to what constitutes music. The brilliance of an album like this, is that it allows/encourages the listener to conjure their own reflections and concepts on what they’re hearing, immerse themselves in the bedlam and take relief in the moments of quiet introspection. As Barry himself observes, “Meditate with it. Be with it. Let it take you to a different place, and escape everything”.
A review can merely give a flavour of what to expect; this is bleak, chaotic, harsh, ethereal noise from two very talented individuals. It’s not for everyone, but if you embrace it and stay with it until the end, you will be richly rewarded.
Niche Field is out 20th December via Trepanation Recordings and can be purchased here.
Words: Scott Crawford